I'm really addicted to StumbleUpon, and came upon this page, which interested me in a dorky, linguistic way. And it made a point. Most students, including myself in middle school, when given a passage to read and questions to answer, will translate the passage first and then answer questions. This is fantastic if you're training to translate passages, but does not mark true fluency in the language (in my opinion.)
So what is true fluency? I believe it's when you can converse in a different language with no hesitations. This means there is no time to translate into English and back; imagine how awkward that conversation would be with all those pauses! If this becomes easy, as it does in most advanced classroom/immersion settings; why doesn't this extend into reading passages? I believe it's the structure of the assignments. Sure, the source material is in the target language, but the questions? The discussion afterwards?
In my opinion, if the questions of the assignment are in English, I am forced to translate. If the questions are in the target language, there needs to be no change in mindset. This still leaves room for completing the assignment without real understanding of the text- with a few simple vocab. words, you can copy and paste the answers. The burden, therefore, lies on the teacher. To make sure you understand the fine nuances of the language that disappears during translation and to increace fluency, what better way than to discuss it in the same language?
As much as I hated the language school for doing *everything* in the language we were trying to learn, it taught us more quickly (albeit in a 'sink or swim' method) and made sure that we understood written texts and not just mastered the use of a dictionary.
There. I just regurgitated an article for you all. Discuss.